Personalized Genetic Drug Technologies and Medical Economies in Canada: Moral Experiment or Curative Renaissance? Wednesday, August 03, 2022 A new CCTG national study has received funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and Genome Canada to explore the ethical questions raised with emerging cancer technologies like CAR-T cell therapy. The advancement of genetic therapies like CAR-T introduce a new class of highly targeted and promising therapies for cancer. These personalized treatments are developed based on gene-modification, which raises ethical and societal concerns such as safety, equitable access, and public engagement to ensure public trust and responsible technological advancement. As this study takes shape it is with the understanding that regulatory approval for these new treatments is outpacing the capacity for researchers and bioethicists to engage in meaningful public dialogue. Judy Needham "New cell and gene technologies are transforming our understanding of disease biology. For patients this means high hopes for curative therapies especially for those who have no conventional treatments available,” says Judy Needham, Chair CCTG Patient Representative Committee supporting the research initiative. “With these high hopes there are many important unanswered questions related to side effects and ethical considerations." The study will explore what patients, caregivers and advocacy groups, and scientific, regulatory, industry and health policy experts believe to be at stake with the introduction of next generation cell and gene therapies. The researchers will develop an ethics-based agenda for engagement on next generation genetic technologies based on identified values, problems, and considerations. There is also a plan to hold a national event to deliberate and determine the ethical principles and actions that Canadians believe should guide practices, policies and regulation involving next generation genetic technologies. Dr. Jennifer Bell "The science and technological applications of personalized gene-based drugs are rapidly changing medicine and it is the Canadian public who ultimately will bear the health and economic risks associated with these new treatments, so it is important that the public’s views and values be incorporated to inform these emerging ethical questions," says Dr. Jennifer Bell, Bioethicist and Supportive Care Research Scientist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. 2022-2026 Personalized Genetic Drug Technologies and Medical Economies in Canada: Moral Experiment or Curative Renaissance? Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and Genome Canada. Insight Grant. Bell JAH (NPA), Hay A, Balneaves LG, Chan K, O’Doherty K, Bramson J, Llewellyn H, MacDonald V, Needham J, Peacock S, Sundquist S. The study is led by Dr. Jennifer Bell, Bioethicist and Supportive Care Research Scientist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre with co-applicant Dr. Annette Hay, CCTG Senior Investigator. The patient and caregiver perspectives will be engaged through 3CTN, Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, Canadian Cancer Research Alliance and the Canadian Cancer Trials Group with scientific support from ExCELLirate Canada and BioCanRx. Insight Grants support research excellence in the social sciences and humanities. Funding is available to both emerging and established scholars for research initiatives of two to five years. It enables scholars to address complex issues about individuals and societies, and to further our collective understanding. Insight Grants support research proposed by scholars and judged worthy of funding by their peers and/or other experts and can be undertaken by an individual researcher or a team of researchers working in collaboration. What is CAR-T cell therapy? A type of treatment in which a patient's T cells (a type of immune system cell) are changed in the laboratory so they will attack cancer cells. T cells are taken from a patient’s blood. Then the gene for a special receptor that binds to a certain protein on the patient’s cancer cells is added to the T cells in the laboratory. The special receptor is called a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR). Large numbers of the CAR T cells are grown in the laboratory and given to the patient by infusion. CAR T-cell therapy is used to treat certain blood cancers, and it is being studied in the treatment of other types of cancer. Also called chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy.